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Friday
Jul312009

Bike industry unites to try and work with UCI

Yesterday the cycling equipment industry announced the formation of the Global Organization of Cycling Equipment Manufacturers.(GOCEM)

This new organization was created to provide a unified voice for the bicycle industry.

The objective, to pursue a collaborative and consultative approach with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) the governing body of the sport of cycle racing.

On January 13, 2009 the UCI announced it would start to enforce what is becoming known as the 3-1 rule. Basically it means a component part of a bicycle can’t measure in depth more than three times its width. I wrote my interpretation of the new rules in two articles on June 17th, last, and on June 19th.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the new rules not only apply to frames, but to all parts of the bicycle. Apparently, it was not just me but the whole bicycle industry was caught off guard by this one. Hence the forming of GOCEM at their inaugural meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Some in the bike industry are less kind in their attitude towards the UCI than I am. As an independent observer who no longer has any connection with the bike biz, my criticism of the UCI is not that they brought out these new regs, it is that they dragged their ass over this just as they did with the drug issue, then expect everyone to suddenly comply.

Carbon fiber frames and equipment have been around for twenty years, they have developed into every form and fashion imaginable, as each manufacturer did their own thing. Then the UCI suddenly and belatedly decides to regulate and bring some uniformity to the situation.

One can hardly expect manufacturers to suddenly scrap all their stock of equipment, designs, tooling, etc, and start over from scratch, especially in the current economic climate.

I believe that regulation is needed as in any sport for everyone to compete on a level playing field, but a grace period of 3 to 5 years on the enforcement of these new regulations would have been more realistic.

Any physical sport should be about athletic performance, not enhanced by drugs or stimulants, and not enhanced by equipment. The whole dope issue in professional sport (Not just cycling.) came about because a few found an advantage by taking stimulants.

Pretty soon everyone was on dope, and the playing field was level again. Except that no one could get off dope because if they had, they would then have been at a distinct disadvantage. For years the UCI turned a blind eye to the issue until their hand was forced by public opinion.

There is a situation now in the sport of swimming; a new full body swim suit has been developed and national and world records are falling everywhere as a result. It appears the governing body of that sport is looking the other way, and soon everyone will be forced to wear this same suit to remain competitive.

When that happens will the sport of swimming have been improved, or athletic performance enhanced? I don’t believe at this moment, there is any cycling equipment that can give one rider an advantage over another.

However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t arise in the future. I for one do not want to see a future situation in cycling as there appears to be now in swimming. Where faster times are being recorded and there is doubt whether it is due to the athlete or the equipment.

I also don’t like the idea that amateur athletes are forced to buy some super expensive piece of equipment in order to be competitive, any more than I would expect them to have to take dope.

Performance should be about time and effort devoted to training, not something bought because one athlete happens to have deeper pockets than another.

I believe the intentions of the UCI are good, but like all bureaucracies they first ignore a problem, then move hastily to fix it. The bicycle industry needs the sport of cycling to create the interest that sells bicycles.

The sport of cycling itself, needs both. The UCI to govern and organize the sport, the bike industry to supply equipment, and provide the cash sponsorship of the professional side of the sport.

The formation of the GOCEM I feel is a huge step in the right direction; I just hope the UCI will see it that way and both sides can work together for the good of cycling.

 

Reader Comments (5)

"Performance should be about time and effort devoted to training, not something bought because one athlete happens to have deeper pockets than another." Nice continuation of your theme dating back to June Dave. An interesting post

Simon
lagazettadellobici.blogspot.com

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Lamb

Dave, the swimming suits are being outlawed, but it will not be resolved until April or May of next year due to pressure form the manufacturers. For some odd reason, all the records that are set wearing them will stand however.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGraham White

"When that happens will the sport of swimming have been improved, or athletic performance enhanced?"

Does one have to be exclusive of the other?

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Agreed on this in general. Yet I see no mention of the obvious. That the powerful interests are what drives the problem. Shouldn't the question be, do we want the athletes to be in control of the sport of the big corporation. I'm not anti corp per se. I just don't want them spoiling sport as well as everything else.

I see elitism in sport as a direct result. Once elite level is reached, that athlete has been separated from the real sporting world. When they no longer perform, they re-enter the real world.

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Smith

Whilst I agree with the sentiment that "any physical sport should be about athletic performance" in cycling we are dealing with a sport that has always had a technical component that has the capacity to give advantage to one or more athletes. In the past the derailleur was banned and single speed, fixed wheel bikes were de rigueur. If we went back to this it would certainly help overcome the ‘deeper pockets’ issue and provide a more level playing field but would anyone seriously argue that we even contemplate dropping gears?
My son races in a number of disciplines on a standard road bike (we have quite shallow pockets) in time trials he is severely disadvantaged by competitors riding specialist machines (with much deeper pockets) so I have some sympathy with this argument. But there is a downside (and in my opinion a major downside) in the UCI's approach that potentially robs all cyclists of benefits from technological progress.
This is to do with the frame. When they were constructed from tubes – steel, aluminium or titanium – it was not an issue. But to apply design constraints that limit the frame to a traditional double diamond when the material (virtually exclusively used in the pro-peloton and increasingly the amateur peloton) is carbon fibre and then further complicates it further by the ‘aspect ratios’ of the cross section, makes absolutely no sense. It tragically limits the benefits to be obtained from this material.
I write this as an engineer but also a traditional cyclist with 3 steel and 1 titanium framed road bike, who rides ‘fixed’ in winter. Look at pictures of Chris Boardman’s Olympic Gold winning Lotus bike and similar machines and think what everyday cyclist could be riding in 10-20 years time if the UCI allowed the manufacturers free reign.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjonnyvelo
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